No. 11 Michigan State squeaks by Penn State
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Michigan State still has a shot at sharing the Big Ten title. Barely.
The 11th-ranked Spartans survived an upset scare from Penn State on Thursday night, pulling out a 67-65 victory in front of a nervous crowd at Breslin Center. The Spartans let a 10-point, second-half lead slip away before holding off the Nittany Lions.
“Somehow, thanks to a couple of guys, we found a way to win the game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But I’m not happy with the way we played.”
Raymar Morgan, who finished with 16 points, hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to give Michigan State (23-7, 13-4) a 66-62 lead.
Chris Babb hit a 3-pointer for Penn State (11-18, 3-14) to cut the lead to 66-65. Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas made one of two foul shots for a 67-65 lead with 5 seconds remaining.
Penn State’s Talor Battle couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer. The loss, in many ways, summed up the season for the Nittany Lions.
“It’s been a very tough year for us, and this is kind of how the games have gone, what you saw this evening,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “But our kids have fought and played hard and continued to execute.”
Battle and Babb led Penn State with 16 points each.
Michigan State can earn a share of the Big Ten title for the second consecutive season with a victory against Michigan on Sunday. No. 6 Ohio State already has clinched a share of the championship, and No. 7 Purdue can share it with a victory over Penn State on Saturday.
Penn State refused to fold despite trailing by 10 points midway through the second half. The Nittany Lions took a 62-60 lead with 2:32 remaining on two free throws by Babb.
“We just let that 10-point lead dissolve in a matter of … it seemed like seconds,” Izzo said. “Maybe it was minutes.”
A dunk by Michigan State’s Draymond Green, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds on his 20th birthday, tied the game at 62. Morgan hit two free throws with 1:24 left to give Michigan State a 64-62 lead.
David Jackson missed a 3-pointer that could have given Penn State the lead with 52 seconds remaining.
“We score on that play and it’s a different game,” DeChellis said.
A mad scramble and a Penn State foul put Morgan back on the line to secure the victory.
“It’s that time of year when you have to step up,” Morgan said. “But they (Penn State) wouldn’t quit. They made some big shots.”
Michigan State had lost its previous two home games to Purdue and Ohio State, in large part because of sluggish starts. The Spartans avoided a rare three-game skid at home.
Entering Thursday’s game, Penn State had won three of its last four Big Ten games after losing 12 straight to start the conference season. The Nittany Lions have improved with Battle helping to get other players involved in the scoring.
Depth was a huge advantage for Michigan State with the Spartans’ bench outscoring Penn State’s 26-1.
Michigan State outrebounded Penn State 39-26.
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